One of the main concerns when running a webinar or virtual meeting is managing the time effectively. In fact, we often become so focused on "getting everything in" to the allotted time slot that we forget to focus on what we're actually supposed to accomplish. This creates a vicious cycle of poorly led meetings, leading to more people showing up late or leaving early, which leads to… well you get it.
Remember that keeping your meetings to time should be a way to accomplish your team's main goals. Discussion and participation shouldn't be cut short in the name of managing time. That would be a little like having only a few members of your football team go to a game because the bus was too small for all of them. Sometimes you just need a different bus!
Here are some tips for managing time more effectively - and they're just as relevant to physical meetings, too.
Check in with your team at the beginning of the meeting. Are there items people aren't prepared, or even want, to tackle during this meeting? If so, just remove them now and free up room. Do people have hard deadlines? Does everyone have to leave the meeting at the same time? Move the items that require hearing from everyone to a place on the agenda where everyone (or at least as many as practical) can take part and add value.
Get buy-in to the original timeline when the meeting starts. Help people set expectations and plan to stick to timelines as best they can.
As the original time nears its end, check with your participants. Have you accomplished what you've set out to do? Is there more to discuss? In this way, you can move on early from topics that have exhausted themselves and gain some more time.
Re-prioritize throughout the meeting. What are the things that are either time-sensitive or critical to your overall project timeline? Items on the critical path have priority over the items you'll have to discuss "eventually".
Can the information be transmitted asynchronously? If you're merely handing out reports, or sending monthly updates, ask if you really need to take time together that could be spent on issues requiring real-time input. Spend time where it will do the most good. Making them available by file transfer or email might be just as useful.
Assign someone to watch the time for you. This can be a formal arrangement or just ask someone to private message you to quit yacking and watch the clock. Better yet, empower everyone to speak up if they feel time's being wasted. And take time to check with everyone periodically.
Every team can benefit from making a commitment to managing their time as well as focusing on the work to be done. It's not an either-or situation.